Singing to unwind

THERE IS little scope for a song inside the bustling cubicles of the Secretariat. But this doesn't discourage Ayyappa Kurukkal from "nurturing" what he sees as "a natural talent for singing".

After a tiring day's work at the nerve centre of bureaucracy, Ayyappa Kurukkal, an assistant, retires to the world of music. "I sing to unwind," he says. Technology has come to his aid. Along with a few colleagues, he has floated `Swaradhara', one of the few karaoke troupes in the city.

"Kara' means `empty' and `oke' means `orchestra'. "It is a Japanese word," Kurukkal enlightens you on the etymological roots of the word.

The troupe, led by Kurukkal and M. S. Shamsudeen, has Jayakumar, Pramod, Suresh Dutt and Shabnam as singers.

Singing along with a recorded tune is a tough job, says Kurukkal. "The scope for improvisation is little. We are not as privileged as those who sing to a live orchestra. We have to practise a song a number of times before we can even hope to get it right on the stage," he says. "We have an impressive karaoke collection that includes golden oldies as well as new hits," says M. S. Shamsudeen, who is "a Mohammed Rafi specialist".

"I usually sing Malayalam numbers. But I've even managed to do an entire programme on my own," claims Kurukkal. The troupe has done some major programmes in the city. "We charge Rs. 3,000 for each programme," says Kurukkal. "Swaradhara' is a non-profit organisation. We do programmes to satisfy our urge to sing," adds Shamsudeen.

Kurukkal's Maruthi 800 works overtime to transport the troupe's luggage that includes a 2000-watt sound system and a backcloth (a painting of the Guruvayur temple). "The backcloth is meant to enliven the stage which would otherwise look deserted," says Kurukkal.

The troupe is all set to make it big on the city's karaoke circuit.